There are endless things I can say about living with a mental illness. Literally endless. I can write encyclopedias about it. And I think some of the most important things I have to say deal with the difference between perception and reality.
I experience hallucinations. I'm going through another round of them right now. For this round, (at least so far), this means that I occasionally, three or so times a day, hear light knocking that I try to figure out where it comes from, and with the same frequency, see a large bug running away from me. There's some big points to be made here.
1) There is a tremendous amount of variety to the experiences of those with mental illness. Yes, there are some who experience hallucinations all or the majority of the time and hallucinations that are all encompassing, that swallow up all of reality. However, those people are by far and away the minority. Most people who experience hallucinations are more like me. It's every now and then, relatively minor things that are close enough to reality to be believable. They just aren't real.
The assumption by most people that don't experience hallucinations is that for all people that go through them that they are always all encompassing, that they go on all the time, that they are so outlandish that they would seem ridiculous. Absolutely there are some people like that. But to lump all people that experience them into such an extreme has tremendous negative affects on those who go through it. It makes us all out as much worse than we really are.
2) Ok, so this one I say as a single woman who at least occasionally attempts to date. It's the "I like crazy chicks." If you can't handle real mental illness, if you can't cope with depressions and manias and hallucinations and obsessions and compulsions, no you don't. You like drama whores. And there's a whole massive world of difference between the two.
A drama whore uses the issues in her life as a means of seeking attention. She makes everything over blown and melodramatic because it gets her what she wants. And what she wants is for you to pay attention to her. So every situation, no matter how minor, becomes much bigger than it really is.
I am the exact opposite. I have issues. And the last thing in the world that I want is attention for them. Why? Because the attention I get for mental illness is, more often than not, extremely over blown and negative. It's ignorant and presumptive and makes me out to be worse and less capable of living a normal life than I am. I don't want your fucking pity. All the attention that I want is a consistent, genuine, "How are you doing today?". That's it.
3) Unless you actually ask and genuinely shut up and listen, you're not going to know and you're not going to understand. This is the one that I think has consistently hurt me the most. Communication when I'm going through my episodes of mental illness is tremendously difficult. It's hard to put it into words. I struggle and trip through my speaking. And other than less than a handful of people that I've had in my life, no one is willing to actually stop and let me get through it. They just barrel me over.
And then, to make it much worse, they don't believe what I'm saying and either believe that I'm exaggerating or under reporting it. I'm not. Even in the middle of an episode, I am very very picky about how I communicate. I chose my words with tremendous care. I mean exactly what I'm saying with no spin to either direction. It would be nice to have someone believe me.
It will always sadden me and deeply wound me how few people genuinely care enough to shut up and listen. Even in the middle of an episode, I do as much as I can for others. I can be in the middle of my more extreme hallucinations and still be a supportive, genuine friend. But... for so much of my life and in thousands of ways, it feels as though what I give out is never returned. And that will always break my heart.
There's more. There's a lot more. But that's enough for now.